Apart from early photographs, very few likenesses of the beardless Augustus John are known, but the centrally-parted thick hair and handsome features of the young man depicted make the traditional identification convincing. This drawing of the beardless John can be dated to the first half of 1897. During the summer of that year he suffered from a severe diving accident while at home in Tenby. He returned to the Slade that Autumn sporting a velvet cap and a beard to conceal his scars, making a dramatic impression and taking on the persona of a Romantic.
Sheldon-Williams was at the Slade from 1896-98, although considered a Canadian artist, he was born in Hampshire and first travelled to Canada in 1887. His skill as a figure draughtsman was put to good use when he covered the Boer War (1899-1902) and sent back drawings to illustrate London periodicals. He was later an official Canadian War Artist in World War One. Latterly he returned to England and was a friend and neighbour of the Professor, living at Flitwick.